Merry Christmas, friends! I am sorry to have been away from my blog for so long. Between my day job, NaNoWriMo, and my current post-apocalyptic novel in progress, I felt it necessary to make some (selfish) choices that would allow me to keep my sanity.

And now, here we are, chest deep in the mad, mad world of “The Holidays!”

*Shudder*

Let’s be honest, for a time of year that touts the grand ideals of peace, love, joy, good will and cozy visions of family harmony, it can feel more like charging into a personal war to achieve holiday perfection.

And amid this battle I guarantee there will be collateral damage – stress, emotions, money, relationships, physical health – turning the salutation Happy Holidays! into an oxymoron.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when I made my pathetic attempts at winning at holiday perfection. It was a dreadful time, where I ran myself ragged, racing against the clock, doing everything I thought was necessary to make Christmas and even New Years the perfect experience for everyone.

Sometimes, I did achieve something which kind of, sort of, resembled what movies, magazines, advertisements, Christmas cards or even my friends reflected as the ultimate holiday nirvana. But there was a price to pay, both literally and figuratively speaking.

Over time, I began to realize that I was putting too much pressure on myself. In my attempts to make the holidays special for everyone, I created an imperfect experience for myself. I began to despise the holiday season and all the work in meant for me. At my peak of resentment, I skipped Christmas. No tree. No decorations. No Christmas cards. I did purchase a few gifts, but not a lot.

It was the most peaceful and joyful Christmas I had experienced for years!

Nowadays, I have secured my status as a holiday minimalist. I put up a few choice decorations, a 36- inch tree, purchase a few select gifts for family and a few friends, make a simple Christmas dinner, and kick up my feet and enjoy. No more rampaging through stores, losing sleep, wasting money, and doing all the work myself.

Yes, doing things the way that makes me happy may be selfish, but in thinking about myself and enjoying my imperfect, small scale Christmas, my family is spending time with a better version of me.

I was going to make a list of ways to ease the stress of the holidays. But you know, we are all different. The changes I have made work for me but may not be effective or enough for you. My only suggestion is that you do a little self-care over the holidays. Know your limits and realize when your joy meter has pegged out into the red. Cut yourself some slack and remember to enjoy the people around you, not the things that make things appear perfect. Your family and friends will appreciate the gift of your presence – not your presents.

Merry Christmas!

Joan

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